So off we went in a boat called The Sense of Pooh. We left at six and sailed through Amsterdam in the morning. It was chilly and still a little dark. The city was waking up in the first light of a sunny day. We continued through the North Sea canal, past big cranes and factories rising out of the morning fog. Big cruise-ships where coming towards us and as we waved we made fun of the people who where jogging around the upper deck in tiny circles.
The fog lifted, the sun came out and around nine we past the dirty but impressive site of the old steel factories at IJmuiden, just before sailing on to the North Sea.
Yeay!!!! The sea!!!!
Two weeks ago, after already putting an extra blanket on the bed at night, I had come to a somewhat sad conclusion; stuff had happened lately, as it does in life, and the summer had flown by me with to many worries and to little play in the sun. Was there a way to catch up with it in September? I felt I could do with an adventure. Something exiting and fun, but also a little scary and out of my comfort zone.
And also something preferably involving great views and broad horizons.
As if post-ordered, a fantastic and bitesize adventure came knocking on my door. My friend Makki and his family own a sailing boat, a trimaran from about 8 or 9 meter long. It needed to be sailed from Amsterdam, right along the Dutch coast south to its harbor in Zeeland.
Ok, for anyone not living in Holland, we’re a teeny weeny country so what may sound like an epic journey from north to south, is actually a two hour drive by car. But by sailing boat, we did it in 15 hours straight.
I had never sailed out on the ocean, and in my worrisome mind eight meters seems pretty small compared to the vastness of the big blue. But people did it before, all the time even, so why couldn’t we? I was excited but also a little nervous. What if I got too scared, what if I wanted off the boat, or got nauseous by the continuous waves. Then it would be a long long trip...
I am sorry to say I am somewhat of the panicking kind. I’ve wished so many times for bulletproof nerves and steely coolness. I would pay good money for it. But it’s not for sale just yet, so every so often I go out of my whit with some PPP (pretty pointless panic). So much so that sometimes, the fear for the fear has become the obstacle, not the situation.
In some cases it feels as a great relief to allow myself to avoid the situation in the future. But I found, if you give fear a little playing room here and there, it tends to pop up in all kinds of places, taking tiny nips and bites out of your life in different areas. That way as we get older, I’ve noticed in myself and in others, our comfort zone can become a shrinking space to live in. I have an old friend who stopped going to festivals because the crowds started making him uncomfortable. Recently he told me he had now stopped seeing bands play live for the same reason. But I remember fifteen years ago, how we loved it right in front of the stage; the heavy bases and the drums, and the energy in the crowd. Now he sits at home and listens to the record on his own. Not sure what to think of that. I guess sometimes avoiding the fear also means avoiding the fun.
And since I find great fun and pleasure in sailing, fear would have to shut up this time.
I couldn’t wait to go.
Out on the sea it was almost tropical, sunny and relaxed. There was a nice little wind and the waves were really gentle. I took a little snooze in the net, with the passing water right under me. It was great to see all the different towns on the coast; Zandvoort, Noordwijk, Katwijk. We went to have a closer look to the old peer of Schevingen.
Just when I started to relax in the idea that our adventure was wonderful, and not scary at all, we got to Rotterdam. The wind picked up, the waves got bigger. Rotterdam is the second biggest harbor in the world, with, going in and out, a steady stream of fast going cargo- and containerships that are about the size of flat buildings. They do not wait or pause politely, there are no traffic lights. We, in our bouncy nutshell, had to find our way through. And we did. Even out the ocean it turns out, if everybody follows the rules of traffic, no one gets hurt.
From that point we had to start sailing more toward the coast, but had to go round a big chunk of sea filled with sandbanks. Then, we seemed to get a little lost, the map was missing and no buoys where in site. Where were we? Where we going to get stuck? My friend had just told me this area was pretty hazardous to sail with stronger winds. Did I tell you the wind had really picked up? And oh yes, had HE told me the sword of the ship wasn’t all that strong and had broken off before this summer?
“Good”, I thought, getting mighty worried, “definatly out of the comfort zone”.
Over the years I did learn how to stay cool while being terrified. I just ignored it. All right, I’m scared shitless. So what? It’s just a passing state of mind. Just a little panic, big whoop.
But lately, because I (sort of accidently) started challenging my vertigo by doing indoor climbing, me and fear are really getting better acquainted. We’re on speaking terms now. And as it turns out, big mean mighty fear is just a little scared. As it was now.
“Freak out NOW! NOW!!!” screamed fear and electrified my brain, making it hard to think.
“Hold on a minute” I tell him, taking a step back “let’s see what the deal is here”
Fear: “The most AWFUL and unimaginably horrifying thing that EVER could happen!!!!! We really should panic ASAP!!!!! It could happen! It’s going to happen! AAAAGH”
Me: ‘Hold on, COULD happen you say, so it might not happen? It might all go all right?
Fear: Yes but it could happen and if it does it is like, really really awful!!!!
Me: But it is not happening now? Is it?
Fear: Yeah well but....you know, better be prepared and all that...
Marc Twain has a great quote about all the things we imagine that might go wrong:
“I am an old man who has had a lot of worries in his life, most of which never happened.”
So did my worries on our trip. They never happened. I never panicked and nothing bad went down, least of all the ship. Within half an hour we had found the map as well as a buoy to tell us where to go. The sword of the boat never budged. All that happened was a magnificent sunset, a lovely and beautiful last part of the journey and boy, does food taste good after a day on the water!
I came home happy, suntanned and feeling I had taken back the summer. Or at least one great and amazing day of it.